A Brief History of Lois Lane in Comics

A dogged, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, a literary genius, one of the sexiest women in comics and, of course, Superman’s girlfriend—ah, Lois Lane.

We’ve covered portrayals of Lois Lane in cinema—but the character of Lois has also changed substantially in the history of Superman comics. 

Lois Lane became one of my role models at a young age. Thanks to my dad and a superhero-obsessed younger brother, I was indoctrinated into the DC Comics fandom early. I still fondly remember one of my favorite Lois moments from 1997 in The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest. Lois is riding on Air Force One with a team of reporters when the plane is hijacked by some quintessential animated bad guys. She tries to reach the emergency phone to dial for help, but is caught, pushed into an empty seat and buckled in. Naturally, Superman arrives to sort out the situation and he flips the plane causing the bad guys to go flying while Lois, securely buckled into her seat with her dark hair flying in a perfect curtain, quips, “Thanks for strapping me in.”  

Lois premiered in Action Comics #1 with Superman in June 1938. Watch her shut down Clark Kent:

Lois in the first comic as a hard-nosed reporter

Visually, the character was based off of model Joanne Siegel. Joe Shuster hired her when they were working on their concept sketches and based Lois’ hairstyle and facial features off of her. She wound up marrying Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel in 1948 and their daughter, Laura. In a Joanne Siegel’s Los Angeles Times obituary, Laura said that her mom “not only posed for the character, but from the day he [Siegel] met her it was her personality that he infused into the character.” Some of her tenacity is evident in the lengths she went to in order to ensure that her husband’s name stayed on the Superman copyright. She died in 2011 at 93.

From her first appearance, Lois was a badass investigative reporter in a male-dominated workplace and she was not afraid to put herself in danger in order to get her story. She fearlessly competed again Clark Kent—they were journalistic rivals at the Daily Planet for a while. Even though she was Clark’s love interest, in the early days, she didn’t suffer from damsel-in-distress syndrome: Lois was really only ever “saved” when she intentionally put herself in danger in the course of an investigation.

In the 40s and 50s, or the Silver Age of Superman, her storylines changed and became more focused on Lois trying to marry Clark. By the 1960s-1970s, her entire character was essentially simplified to being just “Superman’s girlfriend.” To complicate this “Superman’s girlfriend” character, Lana Lang was brought into the comics as an old flame of Clark’s, creating a hot-selling “Clois” love triangle. This is how ridiculous things got: In one 1963 comic panel, Lois is depicted reading Superman’s heart on a special “heart-meter” under the ruse of writing a story on how super-strong his heart is when she is actually trying to figure out on this “love detector” whether he loves her or Lana. Apparently, Lana was in on this plan, since she can be spotted peaking out from behind some curtains waiting to see if Superman loves her.

Lois Lane wielding a love meter

But then, the 1985 reboot changed a ton of stuff across DC Comics, the most important change being the shift from the DC multi-verse to the universe, meaning that worlds of all of the different DC Comics characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were combined. 

In 1986, John Byrne’s The Man of Steel series finally brought Lois back to her tough as nails origins: a reporter who would do anything to get her story.

Lois Lane lifting weights in an evening gown

In issue two of The Man of Steel, Lois is given the assignment from Perry White to interview Superman. After failing repeatedly to score an interview with Superman (fun fact: Lois actually coins the name Superman) Lois intentionally drives her car into the Metropolis harbor, knowing that Superman would come to rescue her and she would finally be able to get her story. Oddly enough, new reporter, Clark Kent, was somehow able to beat her to the punch and scooped the headline right under her. 

Lois eventually started dating Clarke even though they were rivals. She dated Clark while still having sexual tension with Superman and she finally found out his secret when they got engaged in the December 1996 special “Superman: The Wedding Album.”

These days, Lois is still married to her job and she is Superman’s intellectual equal. These qualities set the standard for modern Lois.

In the new Zack Snyder Superman flick Man of Steel Amy Adams carries on the true Lois Lane tradition in a film that’s far too flat and flashy. Adam’s performance gives life to the movie and added some much needed humanity to Henry Cavill’s performance. All of the “damsel in distress” situations that Lois gets stuck in don’t come from dangerous reporting, but rather her desire to help Superman and mankind as much as possible. She’s not just a spectator. In the film, Adams delivers a line that is the perfect tagline for the current Lois: “I get writer’s block if I’m not wearing a flak jacket.”

Required Reading: A history of Lois Lane’s portrayal in movies, parts one and two.  Plus, our hilarious illustrated review of Man of Steel

by Jane Janeczko
View profile »

Get Bitch Media's top 9 reads of the week delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning! Sign up for the Weekly Reader:

6 Comments Have Been Posted

Love Bitch, but...

you folks really need to get a proofreader on board!!

Lois in the 70s

FYI, as someone who read comics all through the 70s, Lois was actually quite badass in that era, especially in her solo stories in the Superman Family comic.

Lois is great but...

Lois is great, but there was times when I felt that Lois and Clark/Superman didn't quite fit together as a couple.

Depends on the writer, though. Some comic writers handle her poorly, as to make her seem self-centered and a little shallow. and I'm not talking about the 50's Lois lane.. although that version did suck balls sometimes. In any version, You also got the impression that she was more in love with Superman than she was with Clark Kent. (unfortunately, the 50's Lois rubbed off on the later portrayals of Lois in that way).

To me that would be like if you dated Johnny Depp, but you're more in love with Captain Sparrow than you're in love with the real Johnny Depp. You know what I mean, right? Superman was just a persona that Clark Kent constructed so that he could still have a life outside of his superhero work. He was raised and grew up as Clark Kent, not Superman.

In the majority of issues with Lois in them, she seems to fixate more on Superman than she does Clark. and on top of it She acts like she's married to her work more than she does with Clark himself. This basically leads me to think that I would be totally okay if Lois and Clark both realized that they worked better together as reporters than they ever did as husband and wife. and then having the most amicable separation in history.

Why does Lois have to be a girlfriend or wife, really? I'd like it if she was simply just a bad-ass normal woman who were basically married to her work, and loving it so much that she couldn't even consider hooking it up with anybody long-term. After all, people have a tendency to treat married women differently than single women... like cutting them off from certain jobs because she now had people in her life to consider should something happen to her. That could easily be a legitimate fear of Lois's, because she loved her job too much to let it change like that.

In all the versions where

In all the versions where Lois fell for Superman first and Clark Kent later I really cannot blame her as Clark was more often than not shown as someone I wouldn't want to date let alone marry. Superman was always the ideal, the one who showed all the positive qualities that she was looking for in someone, while Clark was often an over exaggerated "idiot", so why wouldn't she prefer that version of him?

When the two of them are married that isn't really the case at all. She doesn't fixate on Superman more than she does Clark. She loves the man who is her husband and I'm glad that the marriage didn't do anything to stifle her work ethic as that was one of the things Clark loved about her--that passion she has for finding the truth and exposing bad guys in the way that she is able.

I'm not sure I understand why you wouldn't want DC to have shown that she could have a healthy relationship AND maintain a wonderful job that she excelled at. I feel like that's something that needs to be shown to young women. You CAN have both things. You do not need to choose between marriage and a career.

Well said, Jess. As someone

Well said, <b>Jess</b>. As someone who's read pretty much the entire comics canon of Lois Lane's in the past few years, seen all episodes of TV shows, and all movies she's been in, I can affirm that <b>Aurora Moon</b> is mistaken to criticize Lois for focusing her attention on Superman rather than Clark. As you said, <b>Jess</b>, more often than not Superman was actually the more real persona in the dual identity of Superman/Clark. Clark wasn't that likable during those times either, since he could either be a patronizing rival at the paper or a timid, flaky, jerk. Anyone who would disparage Lois for her affections for Superman is, consequently, tacitly endorsing the sexist writing that produced those stories so one would sympathize more with the man and blame the woman in a classic case of the "Nice Guy" or "friend zone" scenario.

Also troubling about <b>Aurora Moon</b>'s comments is that they assume Lois was always more married to her work than her husband and set up this false and anti-feminist dilemma between love/marriage and work. While married to Clark, it's true Lois Lane was still a dedicated and prolific reporter. However, that did not diminish what she had with Clark. They still went on dates, made love, gave each other advice, reported together, and supported one another. To say that Lois should have to choose between career or marriage sends a damaging message to women, as well as men, that women naturally become lost in a relationship and that, unlike men, they are incapable of having it all and balancing it all. Showing a career woman, like Lois, take on the challenges of work and love is exactly the kind of positive role model young women need as long as the emphasis is on choice. What might be right for Lois may not be right for other women who may either prefer to remain single, to be homemakers, or anything else. Criticizing Lois for making the choice that was right for her (marriage + career) is counterproductive.

So, thank you, <b>Jess</b> for your insightful commentary on Lois which, hopefully, will help <b>Aurora Moon</b> understand that her comments did a disservice to Lois Lane and the values of the feminist movement by not treating Lois' point of view and her agency with the respect they deserve.

No offence intended here, but

No offence intended here, but you are 100% wrong, people constantly say that the character of Superman is a duel identity, he hides in one while the other is his real face.
It's not true, Clark Kent is Superman and Superman is Clark Kent.
It's not like Brue Wayne being the mask Batman wears to hide himself.
The only difference between the two personalities that he shows is one plays the every-man and one plays the super-man. But the ideals are still there, the want to protect people, hell he has shown himself to people and abandoned part of his identity to save people in the comics before (Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow, All-Star Superman).
I'll agree with <b>Aurora Moon</b> that there have been times when she is written well and times when she is handled so poorly that she comes off as a total bitch, it's one of the reasons I always have a small amount of bile rise in my throat when I hear someone is playing Lois and I know that's wrong, but she's been written as a self-entitled idiot so long that too many think of her as that now(hell, the beginning of All-Star Superman has her acting like a bitch to Clark for simply 'thinking' he's joking about who he is).
As for the 'sexist' remark, I'll admit that while being attracted to the flashy extrovert is something people usually find themselves being drawn towards. You do know that the image of all women in media is set on finding the 'perfect looking, strong and powerful' man, right? There's sexism, playing a role to a boundary that holds people back, you know what would be far better than Clark getting Lois?

Lois finding a guy, any guy, lets call him "Bill from accounting", he was coincidently living in the apartment complex that there was fire in while Lois was there to report on it, with Superman off fighting Luthor, Darkseid, or Brainiac-some extraworld enemy that can take his full attention, it was up to the regular heroes of Metropolis to stand up. They chat over coffee after Lois has finished her job there and they find they like each other, two to three years down the line, they're married and happy with normal lives.
That's character development and NOT sexist.

BUT - stuff like that will never happen, because rabbid fans of comic 'continuity' will scream bloody murder at the idea of changing the status quo while equally screaming that they dislike the same old stories.
Look at how people have reacted to the New 52 'Romance' between Superman and Wonder Woman, it was a change up, but they came out fan raging. It's either accept things are going to change or stop bitching about the same boring stories, the same problem with taking away Supe's powers.

Add new comment